Contributed by Brian McConnell
Three of the McConnell family arrived in Canada from Monaghan town, County Monaghan in the 1920s. Two sisters, Margaret and Rachel, and a brother William Arnold settled in Toronto. In Monaghan town their parents William and Sara McConnell resided on High Street. It was a large family with thirteen children. They were visited in Toronto by a sister Martha and a brother Thomas James, known as ‘Tommy’.
Margaret, known as ‘Sissy’, was the oldest of the siblings. She arrived with her husband Joseph Clarke in Toronto in 1924. They left Monaghan town a week after their marriage in First Monaghan Presbyterian Church. Joseph had trained at Givens Garage in Monaghan town as an auto mechanic and continued in that occupation in Toronto. He was a member of the Orange Lodge in County Monaghan and when he arrived in Toronto transferred his membership to Enniskillen Loyal Orange Lodge No. 387, one of the oldest in the city, of which he later became Master. Margaret moved with Joseph to northern Ontario in 1947 when he purchased a Dodge Auto Dealership & Garage in Englehart. They were very active in community affairs with him serving on Town Council and then as Mayor. Both also volunteered with the Presbyterian Church in Englehart and he became a member of the Rotary Club and the Masonic Lodge.
William Arnold, known as Arnold, arrived in Toronto in 1925. He worked at various jobs including as a cook and during the Second World War was a guard at a Prisoner of War Camp. After the war he took a job in Timmins, Ontario as a gold miner. His wife Elizabeth operated a corner store in the city. While they lived in Timmins, Arnold assisted the family of his nephew Robert, who was employed in construction and lived there for a few years. Robert’s work often required him to be away and Arnold would check on his nephew’s wife and son Brian during those times. They also spent time together over the holidays, including at Christmas.
Rachel arrived in Toronto in 1926 to help her sister Margaret care for son William, known as ‘Billy’, who was born that year. She resided with Margaret and Joseph in their home for several years. She later moved out and became a live-in nanny to a family. Tommy stayed with his sister Margaret when he visited from New York where he was living with sister Elizabeth ‘Lilly’ and her husband Edward King. He married Anna, daughter of Thomas Abernethy, a native of Stewartstown, County Tyrone. During the Second World War Tommy enlisted in the U.S. Army. He eventually resided with Anna on Long Island, New York. They had one son William, also known as ‘Billy’.
Martha visited her sister Margaret in Toronto while on her way to Detroit, Michigan in 1927 where her husband Edward Quinn had secured employment as an engineer with the Ford Motor Company. They, however, found themselves homesick and moved back to Ireland where they farmed for a few years and then moved to Belfast to manage a grocery store. One of the close family friends who stayed in the home of Margaret and Joseph in Toronto was Thomas ‘Tommy’ Stephenson. He was a native of Manorhamilton, County Leitrim, Ireland. As an accomplished horseman, on the 12th of July in Toronto he dressed up as King William of Orange and rode a white horse for several years. He worked in a men’s clothing store and later became the proprietor of one himself in Toronto. He married Rae Sheridan who also came from Ireland.
This contribution comes from Brian McConnell, retired lawyer, historian and author, who is very proud of his Irish heritage and holds dual Irish and Canadian citizenship. In addition to his McConnell relatives who arrived from County Monaghan, Ireland, some of his mother’s ancestors were from County Cavan and came to Canada during the Famine in 1847.